At the farmer’s market last weekend, Jason and I purchased a whole chicken from Stillman’s. Stillman’s is a small family-owned farm in Hardwick, MA that raises meat and poultry using sustainable and local practices. Their philosophy on their website really struck a cord with me, so I wanted to repost it here:
Our farm offers conscientiously raised, grass-fed and pastured, hormone-free meats and poultry. We believe in raising our animals in a manner that is humane and respectful, a respect that extends not only to our animals but to our land as well. Our sustainable, more holistic approach to animal husbandry yields better tasting, safer, and more nutritious meats and poultry.
This is our Conscientiously Grown philosophy.
It would be great if all farmers took this approach to growing, but alas, you need to seek out the ones who do, and a farmer’s market is usually a great place to start.
Back to my chicken… Now that I know how to break down a chicken, we thought we might as well get a whole one and use it for a few things. First, I removed the neck, back bone and breast bone, so that I had a “flat” chicken to work with, and bones for stock!
For my chicken stock, I blanched the bones in water first (to remove all the blood), drained that water, then started the bones again in fresh water. Once boiling, I added my vegetables – onion, carrot, celery, leeks, thyme, parsley, dill, bay leaf, garlic cloves, and whole black peppercorns.
I simmered this mixture for 2 hours until full-flavored. I then strained the stock into quart containers and discarded my bones and vegetables. This yielded 2 1/2 quarts of beautiful golden chicken stock. There’s no fat or salt in this stock – that will all be added to taste in the dishes I use the stock in. I hate using canned/boxed stock because of all the sodium it has it in already.
While my stock was cooking, I started prepping the chicken for the grill. I made a marinade/paste of roughly chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, dill), 3 diced garlic cloves, 1/2 lemon sliced, olive oil, salt and pepper. I mixed that all together in a bowl.
Next, I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper, then rubbed the marinade all over both sides of the chicken. This marinated in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Jason fired up the grill on high. He took off some of the big pieces of lemon so they wouldn’t burn on the grill. We placed the chicken on the grill (the hottest section) skin side UP, then placed the shallow pan that we used to marinate it on top, so that it kept the chicken flat on the grill and weighted it down. For a 3 lb chicken on high heat, we grilled it 8-10 minutes on the first side, flipped the chicken carefully, put the pan on top again, then grilled it another 8-10 minutes. For the last 8 minutes of cooking, we grilled up some sweet potatoes (lightly tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper) and the other half of the lemon that was used in the marinade. We kept the lemon half whole and grilled it cut side down. When the chicken was done, I covered it loosely with foil and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to let all the juices redistribute through the meat. We could hardly wait that long to dig in!
The result: a beautifully grilled chicken, crispy on the outside and unbelievably moist on the inside, with all the flavors of the marinade.
Jason did a fantastic job grilling and said it was one of the best chickens he’s ever had – that’s quite a statement! It was definitely a combination of his grilling, my marinade and the quality of the chicken. After I portioned the chicken into 10 pieces, we squeezed the grilled lemon over top. This chicken could easily serve 4 people. We each had a piece (or 2) of chicken and plenty of leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. I made a delicious chicken sandwich the next day with some of the leftovers.
Next time you’re in the mood for chicken, try cooking a whole one. If you’re intimidated by deboning it yourself, your supermarket’s butcher may be able to do it for you, or feel free to contact me and I’ll walk you through it!